Kamal Musallam talks about his album Lulu

The musician's 2009 album Lulu is an appreciation of traditional Emirati folk songs and poems.
Kamal Musallam, left, performing with Sokoor Al Magabeel. Photo courtesy Sebastian Farmborough
Kamal Musallam, left, performing with Sokoor Al Magabeel. Photo courtesy Sebastian Farmborough

When the Jordanian fusion artist Kamal Musallam speaks about his 2009 album Lulu, his love for his adopted country – a place he now calls home after 12 years living in Dubai – is clearly evident. But more than love, there is a marked respect and appreciation for the music of the UAE – an art form that Musallam describes as “very unique, very layered, a sound I’ve always liked so much”.

His appreciation of traditional Emirati folk songs and poems debuted at the World of Music, Arts and Dance festival in Abu Dhabi in 2009 and has since made the world sit up and take note. The album received recognition from the Grammys when it was officially selected to compete for nomination in 2010 as part of the Contemporary World Music category.

The 12-track album tells the story of an Emirati tribe crossing the country’s vast, majestic ­deserts, and is told through dance, music and poetry.

“The idea was something ­totally different that’s definitely not been done before – a ­record we called Lulu, meaning pearl and dedicated to the UAE culture – in my way,” says ­Musallam. “I wanted to feature and ­highlight some of the UAE’s traditional songs and dance styles – the Harbiya – which ­relies on poetry and has a traditional rhythm used in many of the UAE’s traditional songs, and integrate that with my own jazz/rock/soul fusion concept, sort of like creating a band of different elements.”

Musallam partnered with the Emirati folk dance and ­percussion group, Sokoor Al Magabeel, to inject his special blend of jazz – complete with drums, bass guitar, oud, trumpet, ­saxophone and more – into a musical art form that is an integral part of Emirati heritage. “It’s a fusion of two very different styles that we managed to make complement each other and fit perfectly into one another,” says Musallam.

• Visit www.kamalmusallam.com or listen to Musallam’s music on soundcloud.com/kamal-musallam

Published: December 23, 2014 04:00 AM

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